Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 27, 2021

The Evolution of Will 4

The Core of Presence: I

(The Spiritual Ecosystem: 7)

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Still, we have this question: Who am I? Could it simply be that I am the one who is asking the question? When I practice presence, could it simply be that I am the one who is present? When I bring my attention into my body, when I sense my body, could it simply be that I am the one directing my attention, the one who is sensing my body?

That seems so right, yet at the same time so nebulous, because I cannot put a finger on this I that I am. I cannot touch it and I cannot see it. This is because my I is my will and is always the subject, never the object, always the one who sees and not that which is seen, always the one who acts or who allows oneself to be acted upon. Nevertheless, even if I cannot see my own I, I can be my I. When I am present, who is present? If no one is present, if I am fragmented and distracted, then there is no presence. But if I am present, it is because my I is present. The core of presence is will, our I.

To make this a little clearer, consider the difference between mindfulness and presence. In mindfulness we practice awareness of body, heart, mind, and senses. We develop contact with all of that through the sensitive energy and we develop awareness of all of that together through the conscious energy, through consciousness. Mindfulness is primarily about consciousness. The question of who is conscious does not come up, because mindfulness springs from Buddhism and one of the central teachings of that wonderful religion is the nonexistence of a separate self, or no-self. From the Buddhist view, there is no self, no I that is separately conscious. There is just the consciousness, the mindfulness. There is a very deep and liberating truth in this.

Yet that truth bypasses the reality of will. At the level of stream-entry, the first stage of enlightenment in the Theravada school of Buddhism, the self that is shown to be nonexistent is the self of our personality, the set of psychological patterns, the narrative self, the social self, the self of memory and daydreams and thoughts, the self that defends its own existence, the self that the voice in our head pretends to speak for. That is a fragmented and inconsistent pseudo self that lacks any reality beyond our assumptions about it and our belief in it, our mistaken belief that that is who we are. Stream entry occurs when the emptiness of that entire personality self is fully recognized and permanently accepted.

Which begs the question: who is recognizing and accepting the non-existence of the personality self? Stream-entry is not the ultimate, fourth stage of enlightenment. Our true I, our will, unified and empty, is the one who is present when we are present. That I, our I, is empty in that it does not hold itself as separate from others nor from higher, Sacred levels of will. That I is the one who is in the stream.

At the ultimate level all separateness goes, and the person reenters the unity, the oneness, which has always been the true source of our will, of all will, of all.

Coming back to presence, we practice awareness of body, heart, mind, and senses. That, so far as it goes, is equivalent to some forms of mindfulness practice. But in presence there is more, explicitly more. First, we open to the wholeness of body, heart, mind, and senses. That wholeness brings us into consciousness and integrates us, integrates our will, for those moments. It is a small and natural step from wholeness into being our I, our centerless center. By practicing moving into our center, into our I, through presence, we come to know when we are in our I, and we establish the ability to be our I. At that point, presence can flow from our I outward, instead of from our body inward. We practice being ourselves, being our I, being who we really are.

You could try this now. Come into your body. Be in contact with your whole body. Notice any thoughts. Let them come and go, while keeping them within your intentional awareness. Notice any emotions and keep them in your awareness. Notice your surroundings as brought to you by your senses. Be aware of all of this together, body, heart, mind, and senses as the single experience, as the singular moment that this is. Now be the one who is seeing this. Be the one who is living this. Be you…

As we shall see, the ramifications of this are profound, for it is in our will, in our I, that we fulfill our role as human beings, the role of serving as a bridge between the higher and the lower, between Heaven and Earth.

For this week, please practice being yourself, being your I.

See Also: Presence is Mindfulness Plus


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